Bioinspired engineering strategies rely on achieving the combined biological properties of strength and toughness inherent in nature. Tissue engineers and materials scientists therefore aim to construct intelligent, hierarchical biomimetic structures from limited resources. As a representative material, natural nacremaintains a brick-and-mortar structure that allows many viable toughening mechanisms on multiple scales. Such naturally occurring materials demonstrate an outstanding combination of strength and toughness, unlike any synthetic, engineered biomaterial.
In a recent study, Yunya Zhang and co-workers at the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Materials Science and Atom-Probe Tomography in the U.S. developed a bioinspired Ni/Ni3C composite to mimic nacre-like brick-and-mortar structure with Ni powders and graphene sheets. They showed that the composite achieved 73 percent increase in strength with only a 28 percent compromise in ductility to indicate a notable improvement in toughness.
In the study, the researchers developed optimized material of graphene-derived, nickel- (Ni), titanium- (Ti) and aluminum- (Al) based composites (Ni-Ti-Al/ Ni3C composite) that retained high hardness of up to 1000 °C. The materials scientistsunveiled a new method in the work to fabricate smart 2-D materials and engineer high-performance metal matrix composites. The composites displayed a brick-and-mortar structure via interfacial reactions to develop functionally advanced Ni-C based alloys for high-temperature environments. The results are now published in Science Advances.